Mourani says sovereignty movement is rejecting ethnics
Published Friday, September 13, 2013 11:00AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, September 13, 2013 10:52PM EDT
After decades of fighting for sovereignty former Bloc Quebecois MP Maria Mourani says the Charter of Quebec Values shows the independence movement is rejecting Quebecers with ethnic backgrounds.
She is also wondering why the movement she dedicated her life to has rejected her for being tolerant.
"I have to question my continued support for the independence of Quebec," Mourani said.
Mourani, who was born in the Ivory Coast and is of Lebanese origin, says the current Quebec government is demonstrating intolerance and a lack of acceptance for anyone different.
"Who will defend our identity? Will it be the sovereignty movement? I don't know anymore," said Mourani.
Mourani was one of four Bloc Quebecois MPs elected in 2011, and she ran for leadership of the party when Gilles Duceppe failed to win his seat.
This week she has come out strongly against the Charter of Quebec Values proposed by the Parti Quebecois government and it led to her being expelled from the Bloc on Thursday.
"Firing women who work in daycares because they wear a hijab or a cross, firing men who work in hospitals because they wear a kippah or a turban, I cannot support this," Mourani said.
Mourani said she is extremely saddened by the turn of events as she reiterated her criticism of the proposed charter.
"Was my expulsion from the Bloc the conclusion of a succession of events in which an election-driven strategy took precedence over the defence of basic human rights? I wonder."
She also took aim at the Bloc's flip-flop on the issue, as Daniel Paille initially sided with her.
"He changed maybe because the Bloc Quebecois is just a branch of the Parti Quebecois," she said.
Rise of ethnic nationalist wing of movement
The ethnic nationalist section of the independence movement has always been present, but Mourani said her expulsion from the Bloc, along with the introduction of the Charter, shows that the bigoted wing of the sovereignist movement has taken prominence.
"The leaders of the movement, and the activist majority, have always before managed to chase away the intolerant demons when it came to elections," said Mourani.
Pointing out that Quebecers, as individuals, have always accepted those of other cultures after meeting them, and after decades of reaching out to anglophones and allophones, it now seems like sovereignists are doing their best to make immigrants, and children of immigrants, feel uncomfortable in Quebec.
"I understand why people feel excluded by this policy and I think this was a bad long-term strategy for the independence movement," she said.
Family chose Quebec
Mourani said her family chose Quebec over France because they wanted to live in a place where immigrants and people who had religious beliefs were respected.
She said that France's secular model, which Premier Pauline Marois says she wants to emulate, has been a complete failure.
"We seem to be modeling [this Charter] after France which is a disaster of integration. Look at the maghrebs (immigrants from Northern Africa) in the suburbs, the riots, where even now people are not considered French. This is not what I want for Quebec," Mourani said.
Mourani said that being thrown out of the Bloc has her questioning her life's work as a sovereignist.
"I ran for the leadership of the Bloc Quebecois, and for me it was a shock to be treated this way. It was a complete lack of respect," she said.
She said in the past day she has received hundreds of messages of support from her constituents, and from people across Quebec, but she is also aware of a huge gulf in attitudes between those in Montreal and those in the rest of the province.
"I was the only woman [as a Bloc MP], the only one from Montreal. I am 100% of the female caucus, and 100% of the multi-ethnic caucus," said Mourani.
As for the political manoeuvering, Mourani said that sovereignists in the rest of Quebec should stop and think how they will ever become a separate country without the metropolis.
"If you want to send a message to the separatist movement, you should know that it will never happen without Montreal. You will never have an independent country without the support of everyone, or at least a large portion of the population, and Montreal is a key part of Quebec," said Mourani.
Mourani also said that when she reads Canadian newspapers, "it's evident that in terms of being inclusive, Quebec's image takes a dive."
"But there's a big gap between reality and the image."
She said Quebecers are wrongfully described in some Canadian media as being xenophobic and racist.
"That is not Quebec, we are not like that," Mourani stressed, adding the province's image "has taken a blow in the wake of this clumsily presented charter."
Mourani has received widespread support for her stance from various circles and on Friday it emerged that ex-PQ premier Jacques Parizeau, the darling of hardline sovereigntists, is behind her.
Parizeau's wife, Lisette Lapointe, tweeted Thursday, "We are with you, courageous Maria Mourani."
Asked in an interview on Montreal radio station 98.5 FM who the "we" included, the former PQ member of the legislature said a lot of people, including her family.
Pressed on whether that included her husband, Lapointe replied "Yes, he's my family."
A political foe from Ottawa also had kind words for her.
"Although we disagree on many issues, I respect Maria Mourani as a hard-working, principled & passionate Member of Parliament," Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney tweeted.
He later issued the two following tweets:
"Ste. Margaret d'Youville pioneered health care in Canada: Would she be banned from working in a hospital today?"
"Blessed Marie of the Incarnation helped found Canada's 1st school: Would she now be banned from working in a school?
Kenney also posted a picture on Twitter showing him wearing a Sikh head scarf. The photo was apparently taken when Kenney visited the Golden Shrine temple in Amritsar, India, in January.
A spokeswoman in Kenney's office said the minister considers the picture a "message of solidarity."
Kenney said earlier this week Ottawa is prepared to mount a legal challenge against Quebec's plan.
Others who have expressed their support include artist Michel Rivard and student leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.
The leader of one separatist group said Friday that the Bloc made a mistake in losing Mourani.
"Maria is the only MP for Montreal and for the whole region of Montreal. She's a woman, she has some views on immigration and religion and she has a say in that debate," said Jocelyn Desjardins of the Nouveau Mouvement pour le Quebec.
-With a file from The Canadian Press